(KTLA) – A California city is considering declaring its local Chick-fil-A drive-thru a public nuisance – not because people dislike it, but because they seem to like it too much.
For the past several years, Santa Barbara officials say they received several complaints about cars in the drive-thru line backed up onto nearby streets. The line so far has caused traffic problems, including collisions and cyclist safety issues.
“State Street is one of the City’s most important streets for moving people and goods,” city transportation engineer Derrick Bailey told the Santa Barbara Press News earlier this month. “It was never intended to operate with significant blockage.”
A report conducted by the City’s Public Works Department stated that on weekdays, cars lined up for the Chick-fil-A drive-thru can block one of the lanes on State Street for as many as 91 minutes. That number grows to 155 minutes on weekends.
For now, the city council has postponed the nuisance designation and granted Chick-fil-A until June 7 to find and present solutions.
However, if the city council does declare the restaurant a public nuisance, Chick-fil-A could lose its nonconforming use status for the drive-thru facilities.
“On behalf of myself, Chick-fil-A and the many team members, we sincerely regret that this traffic situation has come to this point and heartily wish to work in good faith with the City to resolve this matter once and for all,” Santa Barbara Chick-fil-A owner-operator Travis Collins told the S.B. Press-News.
Past attempts at reducing drive-thru traffic backup, including reconfiguring its on-site queueing and stationing mobile order takers, have not worked, the city stated in its council agenda report.
Santa Barbara’s own policies may be contributing to the problem as well. In 1979, the city enacted an ordinance prohibiting new or expanded drive-thru facilities. The restaurant at 3707 State St. was originally permitted to open with a drive-thru in 1978 as a Burger King. The drive-thru status was grandfathered in when it became a Chick-fil-A restaurant in 2013.
After more than 40 years with no new drive-thru businesses, the ordinance has drastically limited options for those in search of a quick meal. The result is even more cars trying to squeeze into an already popular destination.
One solution to relieve the pressure may already be in the works, however. The Los Angeles Times reports that Chick-fil-A is in the early stages of applying for a permit to open a new location in an unincorporated part of Santa Barbara County, about 2 miles away.